Let’s face it- we all love our cell phones! We use them for keeping up with friends and family, getting the latest news and information about the things we are most interested in, banking and finance, shopping, and for interacting with a variety of games and apps that entertain us. However, when it comes to using your cell phone while driving- the question is “Should you really be doing that?” From a legal perspective, every state has different laws regarding cell phone use while operating a vehicle, but they are all designed to try to keep motorists safe from distraction, accidents, and injury.
Here in Florida, Florida law 316.305 is the only current statute that addresses using a cell phone or mobile device while driving. The wording of the statute is a bit confusing. We will try to summarize it here for you, define what type of cell phone use is a violation of the law, and talk about whether it is safe to use a cell phone or other mobile device at all while driving.
So when can I use my cell phone while driving in Florida?
This question is multi-faceted. Let’s start with the cell phone activities in Florida that as of 2019, by law, are illegal.
- It is illegal to send or receive electronic communications such as texting, emailing, or messaging using a hand-held device. To clarify, this means that you may not operate a vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, number, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device.
- It is illegal to look at texts, emails electronic messages or apps for the purpose of interpersonal non-voice communication while driving.
- It is illegal to enter data into a GPS system while driving.
- It is illegal to search for and read information or data on the internet or on apps while driving.
- It is illegal to use headphones, earphones, or headsets while driving. However, the statute does allow you to use a headphone, earphone, or headset that provides sound through one ear so that surrounding sounds can be heard with the other ear.
All that said- then what is legal?
- It is not illegal in Florida to make or receive phone calls on your cell phone while driving. You can do this by using a hands-free device but it also means you can put your cell phone up to your ear with your hands to make and receive calls.
- It is not illegal to send or receive electronic messages using hands-free voice- activated technology while driving. It also means you can use any device that allows you to speak the text and then audibly play back the responses. Some hand-held devices will do this, but more and more, technology is built into today’s cars that will connect to your mobile phone or other device by Bluetooth.
- The Florida statute also specifically states that a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated, and is not subject to the prohibitions of the statute. You can use your cell phone for any reason while stopped at a light or on the side of the road.
What about GPS use?
The Florida law 316.305 statute only bans reading data for the purpose of interpersonal non-voice communication and does state that there is a specific exception for using a device or system for navigation purposes. You are allowed to view the GPS map and directions while driving if the course was already programmed and started before you began driving.
What are the penalties for violating the Florida cell phone use laws while driving?
These are noncriminal traffic infractions. If you are caught violating these laws you can receive a ticket and have to pay a fine. If you violate the cell phone use while driving law a second time within five years, you can be penalized with points on your license as well as another ticket and fine.
What is the safest way to use a cell phone in a motor vehicle?
So let’s talk about whether or not you really should be using your cell phone at all while operating a motor vehicle. The truth is that any distraction that takes your eyes off the road or your concentration away from driving, even for a moment, jeopardizes your safety!
The latest research proves that using a cell phone or mobile device while driving is very distracting. So much so, that the driver fails to realize hazards or dangers in enough time to react to them. While hands-free technology such as Bluetooth was designed to reduce the level of distraction and help prevent auto accident injuries, the studies do not prove this to be true. Research shows that using hand-free technology can be just as distracting as using a hand-held mobile phone. It is human nature to take your eyes off the road for a quick look at a device or to use it to exchange what you believe to be some important information that may need immediate attention or response. It is also possible to be caught off guard or distracted just by the contents of an unexpected conversation or message.
The bottom line is that when you are operating a motor vehicle, even if the task you want to complete on your cell phone isn’t illegal, that doesn’t mean it is in your best interest to do so. Remember too, when you travel or cross state lines, those states may have different cell phone or mobile device laws and different penalties for violations.
The safest thing is not to use your cell phone or any mobile device under any circumstance while driving. It takes a lot of discipline, but the best idea is to put the phone down and turn it off before you begin driving. After you complete your trip, then you can pick it back up and turn it on. This will reduce the temptation to respond to texts or answer phone calls. If you absolutely have to make or receive a call or text message, pull over and stop the car in a safe place before you do so. Make good choices when it comes to avoiding distracted driving. While we have become a society of immediacy, the most important priority is for you and your passengers to arrive at your destination safely. We hope that you can remember to “enjoy the ride,” and save the hand-held electronics for later!